Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Review: _Memory of Fire_ by Holly Lisle

Two young women find their destinies in fictional Cat Creek, North Carolina. Molly McColl is dragged from her bed in the middle of the night into another world. Lauren Dane is frightened by a mirror in her house that shows scenes from another world. This is how the Fantasy novel _Memory of Fire_ by Holly Lisle begins. From these two events starts an entertaining read of action, mystery and sorrow. The author weaves a good story through her characters, plot and magic.

Ms. Lisle’s characters brings this book to life through their problems. The book begins the story of two women with serious problems. Lauren Dane is a widow with a two year old son. devastated by the loss of her husband. She must deal with her gate weaving ability, someone trying to kill her, protecting her son, and a memory loss. Her trials help her to grow strong. Molly McColl begins as a troubled loner intent on escaping her captors. A healer, Molly does not want to use her power because it gives h √er pain. She must discover her strength through love and sacrifice. Their growth occurs through interacting with other characters such as Eric of the Sentinels and Seolar of Oria. All of the characters are vivid and realistic in their depictions by the author.

Another element that gives this book a strong, gripping story is the plot. It starts with a kidnapping and magic going awry. Earth is connected to other worlds through magical gates. Those worlds up world from Earth are destroyed, but those down world allow humans to do magic. The world is protected by groups of people called Sentinels that maintain the balance of energy between worlds. Cat Creek is the town of one group of Sentinels faced with saving the world while discovering a traitor and murderer in their midst. Ms. Lisle writes a tight plot with intrigue, suspense and plenty of action.

Finally, the author’s use of magic creates a suspenseful tale. The magical system Ms. Lisle uses is n ot very unusual. It consists of visualizing and applying a person’s will to cast spells, but magic in this story carries a big price. Every time magic is used in a down world it affects Earth. These affects can be minimal or destroy the world. It is why the Sentinels protect the Earth through careful use of magic. They must stop a spell that created a plague threatening to destroy the  world’s population. Time is running out for them. They need Lauren’s help as a gate weaver, but find her hostile since she believes the Sentinels murdered her parents. Magic is integral to the story, adding a lot of suspense for the reader.

_Memory of Fire_ by Holly lisle is a suspenseful book with plenty of action. The author’s deft storytelling weaving of characters, plot and magic provides an entertaining, gripping story for readers to enjoy. Readers will find it hard to put this book down. This is the first book in the “World Gates” series.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Book Review: _Into the Dark Lands_ by Michelle Sagara

In darkness there is light and in light there is darkness. This is the conflict around which _Into the Dark Lands_ by Michelle Sagara revolves. It is the first book of "The Sundered" series telling the story of the battle between the Bright Heart god and the Dark Heart god through their servants. The author gives readers the beginning of an Epic Fantasy with a dark edge full of interesting characters, a twisting plot and bleak setting.

Erin is a young woman of the Light. She possesses the gift of healing, but wants to fight in the war against the Dark. Full of confusion and desire for battle, she rises to become the Sarillorn of her people, carrying the power of her god. Her youth leads her to failure and capture by Stefanos, First Servant of the Dark god. Ms. Sagara has realistic characters in this book. Erin is torn by love for Stefanos and has many flaws. Stefanos is very interesting with his evil nature but ability to show mercy at times. These two weave their way through a twisting plot of darkness and death.

Events in the book twist around an air of uncertainty. The reader is never sure where the plot will lead to by the conclusion of the book. Erin is chosen by the First Servant of the Light god as the hope of the future. She has no idea where that will lead. Stefanos fluctuates between his dark nature and displays of seeming love for Erin. He does things that are contrary many times. This twisting plot gives the book a sense of ambiguity that keeps the reader hooked until the end.

Lastly, the bleak setting increases the suspense of the book. Rennath is a city of shadows, built of gray and black stone. There is no color to relieve the starkness. Screams of the dying fill the air as priests of the Dark god sacrifice victims in bloody rituals of torture. The Nightwalkers like Stefanos feed on the blood of humans too. Erin must survive, making her way through this horrible place without blighting her soul. The sense of forboding this setting invokes makes the reader sympathize with the main character.

_Into the Dark Lands_ by Michelle Sagara is an intriguing, suspenseful beginning to an epic Dark Fantasy series. The author uses clear descriptive words to give her interesting characters, tight plot and dark setting a life of their own. Readers will be hooked into wanting to find out what will become of Erin in the other books. This series was published several years ago and the books might be out of print, but can be found in used bookstores. If you come across this book, it is worth reading.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Review: _Sword and Sorceress XX_ edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The “Sword and Sorceress” anthologies have been around for a long time. One is published every year, telling stories of strong women characters that use swords or magic in their lives. _Sword and Sorceress XX_ edited by the late Marion Zimmer Bradley has many entertaining stories for readers. Most of the stories in this anthology follow the theme of finding one’s true path or self in life. Stories range from serious to humorous.

Humor is the main component of “Too in the Morning” by George Barr. Zanita is a sorceress that puts too much effort unwittingly into spells with disastrous results. Her teacher tells her she cannot be a sorceress, so she becomes the queen of the kingdom and is loved by the people. Her talent becomes useful when the kingdom is attacked by an enemy. Mr. Barr gives the story life through strong descriptions that bring the humor out.

Cynthia the witch of Syracuse returns in the Historical Fantasy “Blood Will Tell” by Dorothy J. Heydt. Set in the early days of Rome when Carthag e was threatening it, Cynthia comes back to a city to ask for a blessing from her dead husband before remarrying. A fisherman asks her for a spell to warn him of the enemy ships. The author tells an intriguing story through interesting characters and lively descriptions of the historical period.

Another interesting Historical Fantasy takes place in ancient Greece. Greek mythology blends with vivid story telling in “The Mask of Medusa’s Daughter” by Kathryn J. Brown. Calli, Medusa’s daughter, must wear a mask to keep from turning living beings into stone. She is trying to free her friend Andras, a man made of bronze, from a greedy king who keeps Andras in his garden. The king sends Calli to steal a secret from a goddess’s temple. This is a good story told in a vivid style by the author.

“Legacy” by Lisa Deason is the story of Serenity trying to live up to her mother Merriment’s reputation. Serenity comes from a proud line of women warriors. She has trouble wielding the sword Legacy, only wanting her mother’s @ approval. Her story weaves around the plot of escorting a princess home and preventing an assassination of the young princess. Ms. Deason tells an entertaining story with a nice theme in a steadfast way.

Coming into one’s magical power is a standard theme of Fantasy. It is the theme of “Late Blooming” by Margaret L. Carter. Miri is the daughter of a family of powerful mages, but has no significant talent of her own. She must save her aunt from a rival mage when he attacks her home, discovering her true power in the process. This is a fast paced story with an interesti ”ng ending.

One story with a flavor of the desert is “The Challenge” by Richard Calantropio. Safiyah is the adopted daughter of the queen in a matriarchal desert society. Her mother accepts a challenge to kill a mythical beast to stop a plague killing their people, but Safiyah believes it is a trap. She is scorned by the second in command for having a limp and must save her mother by using her wits. The author provides an interesting story of adventure that readers will enjoy.

Published once a year for twenty years is a strong recommendation for a continuing anthology. _Sword and Sorceress XX_ edited by the late Marion Zimmer Bradley is another entertaining addition of the series full of stories of interesting women characters. Readers will find stories with humor and adventure. There is something to entertain readers of every taste.